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Scripps Research Appoints Two Noted Scientists to Metabolism and Aging Department

JUPITER, FL, August 21, 2012 – The Scripps Research Institute has appointed Paul D. Robbins, PhD, as a professor and Laura J. Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, as an associate professor in the Metabolism and Aging Department on the institute’s Florida campus.

“It is a distinct honor to welcome these two exceptional scientists to the faculty,” said Roy Smith, chair of the Metabolism and Aging Department. “They both bring a wealth of knowledge and experience and are involved in research that will help change the way we deal with aging and disease in the future.”

Prior to joining Scripps Florida, Robbins was a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Niedernhofer was associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh and its cancer institute.

Paul Robbins: Focusing on Age-Related Degenerative Diseases

In his research program, Robbins focuses on various biological approaches to understanding and treating age-related degenerative diseases, including cancer, bone healing, and diabetes. He has developed a gene therapy approach to arthritis, and is participating in a clinical trial for osteoarthritis—a project he expects to continue at Scripps Florida. His laboratory is also studying a novel peptide for bone treatment.

Mostly recently, he has been using genetic and pharmacologic approaches to inhibit NF-κB, a protein factor that controls DNA transcription. NF-kB is involved in a number of key processes, including immune and inflammatory responses, and has been implicated in diseases ranging from cancer and arthritis to various neurodegenerative diseases.

“It’s an honor to join the Scripps Florida faculty,” Robbins said. “The quality of the research is spectacular, not to mention the collaborative atmosphere and the outstanding facilities. On top of all that, I grew up in Florida, so this is like a homecoming.”

Robbins, 54, received a BA in biology from Haverford College, PA, in 1980 and a PhD in molecular biology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985. He conducted postdoctoral work at the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1986 to 1990.

Robbins joined the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry in 1990 and was appointed associate professor in 1996. He became a professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery in 2001.

Robbins’ honors and awards include the Synos Foundation Research Award (2000), the Nicolas Andry Award (2004), the Orthopedic Research Society Kappa Delta Award (2005), and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Mary Jane Kugel Award (2009).

Laura Niedernhofer: Exploring the Link between Aging and DNA Damage

Niedernhofer is interested in the relationship among DNA, cancer and aging—especially the link between aging and DNA damage. She has focused much of her work on a rare and fatal human disorder known XFE progeroid syndrome. Patients rapidly develop progressive symptoms that are associated with old age such as heart disease, muscle wasting and bone loss.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Scripps Florida,” Niedernhofer said. “All of us became scientists because we wanted to change healthcare, and we all have ideas about how to do just that—here we have a chance to get them off the shelf and into practice.”

Niedernhofer, 47, received a BS in chemistry from Duke University in 1985 and a master’s in physiology from Georgetown University in 1991. She was awarded a PhD in biochemistry from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1996 and an MD from Vanderbilt just two years later. She conducted postdoctoral work at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands from 1999 to 2003.

In 1999, she received a National Science Foundation International Research Fellow Award that was followed the next year by an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship. In 2005, she became a Hillman Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (2005-2008) as well as being named a New Scholar in Aging by The Ellison Medical Foundation (2005-2009).

Both Robbins and Niedernhofer live in Juno Beach.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is one of the world's largest independent, not-for-profit organizations focusing on research in the biomedical sciences. TSRI is internationally recognized for its contributions to science and health, including its role in laying the foundation for new treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and other diseases. An institution that evolved from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924, the institute now employs about 3,000 people on its campuses in La Jolla, CA, and Jupiter, FL, where its renowned scientists—including three Nobel laureates—work toward their next discoveries. The institute's graduate program, which awards PhD degrees in biology and chemistry, ranks among the top ten of its kind in the nation. For more information, see

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